Cablevision Wires Up for Wideband

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has successfully fended off the specter of FiOS (so far, at least) and will soon have a new offensive weapon to use against Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ): Docsis 3.0. (See Cablevision Still Fighting Off FiOS.)

The New York-based MSO is on the cusp of completing its Docsis 3.0 network buildout and should be ready to deploy faster Internet service tiers "within months," Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge said Monday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

Cablevision has not announced how fast its introductory Wideband tiers will be or how much customers will have to pay for them, but the channel bonding techniques of Docsis 3.0 will, in theory, enable the operator to produce shared speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s.

If Cablevision follows the example of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and other operators that have already launched Docsis 3.0-based services, any channel bonding will be relegated to the downstream, at least initially. (See Comcast Takes 'Wideband' Wider , J:COM Does Docsis 3.0 All Over, and Videotron Hits the Gas .)

Today, the high-end tier of Cablevision's residential cable modem service tops out at 30 Mbit/s downstream and 5 Mbit/s upstream.

The capital Cablevision is spending on the Docsis 3.0 buildout is linked to its deployment of a massive WiFi network, which is costing the MSO about $70 per home passed and will total roughly $300 million over a three-year period. (See Cablevision Plays WiFi Card .)

Initially, Cablevision's WiFi network is providing speeds of 1.5 Mbit/s, though Rutledge says the MSO is capable of pushing higher speeds (perhaps up to 10 Mbit/s) and even supporting voice applications on the wireless access network.

Rutledge acknowledged that Cablevision looked at several wireless alternatives before settling on WiFi.

"We wanted to get to market fast with a value-added proposition," he said. The MSO considered buying spectrum and becoming a cellular operator, but "we thought if we went down that path we'd be a late entrant." (See Cox Wireless: Soup to Nuts and Cable Plays Clearwire Card.)

And Rutledge is open to the idea of forging deals with other WiFi network operators outside Cablevision's footprint. "That wasn't our thinking, but it's possible to create relationships with other WiFi providers," he said.

Undaunted on the RS-DVR
Despite the chance of a Supreme Court hearing, Cablevision is moving ahead with its plan to deploy an ambitious and controversial remote-storage DVR (RS-DVR), a network-based DVR that rents out space on centralized servers and calls on subscribers to make their own individual recordings. (See Cablevision Plan Faces Fresh Court Hearing and Court Resurrects Cablevision's Network DVR .)

Rutledge noted that Cablevision has the RS-DVR installed on its internal campus, and expects to start deploying it to customers some time in 2009.

Although he didn't address the network transport costs associated with the RS-DVR deployment, Rutledge estimated Cablevision will save up to $100 per RS-DVR install (compared with a customer premises-based DVR deployment), partly because the relevant customer set top boxes don't require local storage and the new application and service can be downloaded to customers and activated without the need for a truck roll.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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